Just as Clippers coach Doc Rivers invited former assistant and Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue to spend time around the team this season, Rivers doing the same with another former assistant, Tom Thibodeau.
Thibodeau was fired Sunday as Minnesota’s coach and president of basketball operations. He was Rivers’ top defensive assistant in Boston from 2007 to 2010 and the two remain close.
“Tom will be around,” Rivers said before the Clippers’ practice Monday. “Tom’s around even when he’s not. He watches every NBA game, so the one thing with Tom is he’s going to be working at home even without the job, that’s what he does. And he’s another guy who loves the game of basketball. And for me, I love people who love the game.”
Lue advises Rivers in an informal capacity, continuing a practice Rivers has used for years. As the coach in Boston, Rivers enlisted another former Minnesota coach, Flip Saunders, for help. But Saunders was more hands-on, to the point he instructed during practices and rode the team plane, Rivers said. It’s unclear how involved Thibodeau would be with the Clippers beyond giving Rivers his thoughts.
In discussing the firing, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that he was disappointed in a spate of December losses against teams he felt Minnesota was better than, and hopes the move will help the team reach the playoffs. Minnesota is two games behind the Lakers for the eighth playoff spot; the Clippers are in fourth.
Thibodeau’s firing came immediately after a 22-point win over the Lakers and midway through a season that began awkwardly when Jimmy Butler demanded a trade. In November, Thibodeau and Rivers discussed the trade that eventually sent the disgruntled guard to Philadelphia.
“I don’t think it surprised anybody; the timing of it was probably strange, win by 20 and get fired,” Rivers said. “I jokingly told him, ‘At least I got fired [in Orlando in 2003] after a loss.’
“Listen, we have tough jobs. We get it. We accepted it. We took the job knowing it. And I’ve been in long enough to understand there’s times when you can do a great job and get fired, there’s time you can do a poor job and get fired. So a lot of it makes sense or doesn’t make sense, it’s never for me to judge.”
Contracts become guaranteed
The contracts of guards Patrick Beverley and Tyrone Wallace became fully guaranteed for the rest of the season after the league’s deadline for such decisions passed Monday afternoon.
While some teams waived players in the hours leading up to the deadline, the Clippers decided to guarantee the deals of Beverley and Wallace months ago, a source not authorized to speak publicly on the matter said.
Beverley will be paid $5.02 million this season and Wallace $1.34 million.
Beverley began the season as a starter before moving to the bench and has become one of the team’s best three-point shooters since mid-December. Wallace has become more involved in the team’s bench rotation, averaging 13.8 minutes, 5.5 points and 2.5 rebounds in his last 12 games.
“He’s focused every game, he knows what his strengths and weaknesses are,” forward Danilo Gallinari said of Wallace. “He brings a lot of energy, especially on the defensive end. It’s been key. And he spends a lot of time in the gym working on his game. That’s what you want from a guy like that.”
Austin Rivers ‘a good fit’ in Houston
Former Clipper Austin Rivers has averaged 38 minutes during his first six games in Houston and his father called it “a good fit.”
“I think he’s doing the same thing he was doing with us defensively,” Doc Rivers said. “He’s got great feet, he really does. He’s been able to do that and then you add the offense, it’s just been a really good fit for him.”
The Clippers traded Austin Rivers to Washington in June before the Wizards dealt him to Phoenix in mid-December. His stay was short-lived: Rivers and the Suns mutually agreed to part ways two days later and he landed in Houston, which was in need of another guard after an injury to former Clipper Chris Paul.
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Update: One day after scoring four points in his second NBA appearance this season, center Johnathan Motley was sent back to the Agua Caliente Clippers of the G League. Motley has spent more time around the Clippers in recent weeks in part because a spot on the active roster has been opened while backup guard Milos Teodosic has rehabilitated tendinitis in a knee. “You can always learn something, take something from everybody,” Motley said Sunday. “I just try to nitpick things from everybody’s game and add them to mine.”